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Minneapolis has an inconsistent history of releasing body camera video when police kill someone

There’s been no pattern to when and how Minneapolis officials release body camera video if it is released at all.

body cam footage
Body camera footage from a Minneapolis police officer taken during the serving of a no-knock warrant Thursday morning.
Screen shot/City of Minneapolis

Since its police body camera program kicked off in 2016, Minneapolis has yet to settle on a policy for releasing video when action by an officer results in someone’s death. 

Procedures for operating the body cameras were murky in the beginning. The body camera policy, when it was a pilot in 2014 and 2015, didn’t require officers turn it on, but only recommended they do so during a traffic stop or anticipating an arrest. That policy came under fire when Minneapolis police shot Jamar Clark in November of 2015, and neither officer was wearing a body camera.

Jamar Clark
Credit: Kenya McKnight
Jamar Clark
Even when Minneapolis police were equipped with cameras, and a new, post-Clark policy was in place with requirements for when they should be recording, officers often ignored the rules and kept their cameras off, according to an internal Minneapolis police report in 2017. That report was prompted by scrutiny following the incident in which Minneapolis police, while wearing body cameras that were not recording, shot and killed Justine Damond in July of that year. After Damond’s death, then-Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo updated the body camera policy again, so that police would be required to turn it on “when dispatched to any call or any self-initiated activity.”

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Since Damond, seven people have died while interacting with Minneapolis police. In each incident, police had body cameras on and recording. But like the body camera policy, Minneapolis’ procedure for releasing body camera footage has been inconsistent, evolving along the way. Sometimes, video is never made public by Minneapolis, only later to be released by the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office when the county attorney decides against pressing charges, or a Hennepin County judge during a trial. 

The practice of keeping video recorded by or obtained by police until after investigations by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and Hennepin County, falls in line with Minnesota law.

Justine Damond
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Justine Damond
For example, body camera footage of the police killing of Thurman Blevins Jr. was released more than a month after his death, when Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman chose not to charge the officers involved. Body camera video from the suffocation of George Floyd was unsealed months after the killing by court order during the trial of former officer Derek Chauvin. 

But the city has not always stuck to that as a policy. Of the seven killings since 2017, video from two incidents has been released by the city before investigations could even take place: bodycam video from the killing of Dolal Idd and Amir Locke.

Minneapolis released 27 seconds of video from the shooting officer in the case of Idd, who was shot on Dec. 30, 2020. That video was released one day after the shooting. 

Thurman Blevins Jr.
Facebook
Thurman Blevins Jr.
About a minute of video from one officer in the Locke killing was released two days after the Feb. 2 shooting.

The Minneapolis mayor has executive powers over the police department. Mayor Jacob Frey has been in office since 2018, a tenure that includes all seven Minneapolis police killings post-Damond (Winston Smith Jr., killed June 3, 2021 in Uptown was killed by U.S. Marshals – who were not using body cameras during the shooting).

Since the death of Floyd, in the two police killings of Idd and Locke, Frey released a short video from one body camera within a day of the police killings. These two examples could be the budding of a new practice for releasing bodycam video of an incident when someone is killed.

The Locke killing also spurred another update to the body camera policy – officers are no longer allowed to turn off their cameras in order to talk to each other when responding to a call. 

Below is a timeline of each Minneapolis police killing since the department first started using body cameras in 2014, and information about body camera video released.

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Jamar Clark 

Incident date: Nov. 16, 2015

Body camera video release date: No video released

Minneapolis police say body cameras were not worn and declined to release video from surrounding security cameras shortly after the incident. Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman released edited security camera footage

Raul Marquez-Heraldes

Incident date: April 4, 2016

Body camera release date: No video released 

More than four minutes of “scene video” – which is from the building where the incident occurred – provided by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension was released by Hennepin County Attorney Office on Nov. 6, 2016. Twelve days later,  the county released about 50 minutes of “squad video,” which is the video from the squad car on the street during the incident (the incident took place inside an apartment unit). 

Justine Damond

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Incident date: July 15, 2017 

Body camera video release date: No video released

Police say body cameras were worn but not on during the shooting. Bodycam video of events following the shooting – with video and audio of the victim edited out – was released after the trial by Hennepin County Judge Kathryn Quaintance.

Thurman Blevins, Jr.

Incident date: June 23, 2018

Body camera video release date: July 30, 2018

Minneaplis released about 16 minutes of raw bodycam video from two officers. 

Travis Jordan

Incident date: Nov. 9, 2018

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Body camera video release date: Jan. 3, 2019

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman released nearly two hours of raw bodycam video from two officers.

Mario Benjamin

Incident date: Aug. 2, 2019

Body camera video release date: No video released.

Bodycams were worn and recorded the incident but there appears to be no release of the video by Minneapolis or Hennepin County.   

Chaisher Vue

Incident date: Dec. 15, 2019

Body camera video released date: No video released 

Bodycams were worn and recorded the incident but there appears to be no release of the video by Minneapolis or Hennepin County. 

George Floyd

Incident date: May 25, 2020

Body camera video release date: Aug. 7, 2020

More than an hour of raw bodycam video from two officers (four officers were involved) was released by court order from Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill. 

Dolal Idd

Incident date: Dec. 30, 2020

Body camera video release date: Dec. 31, 2020

Twenty-seven seconds of raw bodycam video from the shooting officer was released by Minneapolis police. 

Amir Locke

Incident date: Feb. 2, 2022

Body camera video release date: Feb. 3, 2022

About a minute of raw bodycam video from one officer was released by Minneapolis – first, privately, for the family, according to Interim Minneapolis Police Chief Amelia Huffman – then publicly on Feb. 3.